Bhopal: Hours after ‘Sadhvi’ Pragya Singh Thakur — accused in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case — joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on April 17, in Bhopal, the party gave her a ticket to fight for the Bhopal parliamentary constituency against Congress heavyweight Digvijay Singh.
“After spending 10 years in jail due to the Congress conspiracy, I have come here to fight a political and religious war,” said Thakur.
“I will fight this election to serve the nation. Congress and Digvijaya Singh are no challenge to me or to the BJP. I have the party organisation’s support. We will fight unitedly against the people who are conspiring against the nation. We will win this dharma yuddha (moral crusade).”
Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh is the Congress candidate from the seat. The relationship between Singh and Thakur has been bitter ever since Singh called her a ‘Hindu terrorist’ following her involvement in the 2008 Malegaon blast. In fact, Singh is among the Congress leaders who were most vocal in condemning ‘saffron terror’.
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Soon after the announcement of her candidature, Singh welcomed the contest and tweeted a video message to her: “I welcome Sadhvi Pragyaji to Bhopal. Hope you will like the serene, educated and civilized atmosphere of this enchanting city.”
Later he told reporters that Pragya Thakur is to him “what any other BJP candidate would have been”.
Pragya Thakur had in fact volunteered to take on Digvijaya a day after the Congress had announced his candidature on March 23.
It took the BJP 25 days, however, to take up her offer. The party had wanted to field former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan or Uma Bharti, according to sources. But after both senior leaders refused to contest, the party announced Thakur’s name for the Bhopal seat.
Former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said, “There was no delay by the party in announcing names for the four Lok Sabha seats. Sadhvi Pragya’s name has been declared after thorough consideration and at the right time. She is an eligible and capable candidate. Just the announcement of her name is enough for the BJP to win this election.”
Thakur, accused in the 2008 blast case, is currently out on bail.
Who is Sadhvi Pragya Thakur?
A controversial figure known for her incendiary comments and speeches, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur has been associated with the RSS-backed youth outfit Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) as well as the women's wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), called ‘Durga Vahini’. She is a resident of MP.
On December 27, 2017, a special NIA court had dropped the stringent charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against Sadhvi Pragya, Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, Sameer Kulkarni and other accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case.
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Six persons were killed and more than 100 people were injured when two bombs strapped on a motorcycle exploded at Malegaon in Maharashtra, around 270 km from Mumbai, on September 29, 2008.
Since 1989, the BJP has never lost in Bhopal, though it has a sizeable Muslim population. Digvijaya Singh was asked by his party colleague, Chief Minister Kamal Nath, to contest from tough seats like Bhopal or Indore, where the Congress has not won in years. ‘Challenge accepted’ was reportedly Singh’s response and he was named for Bhopal. By fielding Sadhvi Pragya against such a strong Congress candidate, the BJP is hoping to polarize voters, as political analysts speculate.